Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type





Stigma, Mental Health, Sociology


Films have a major impact on popular beliefs in American society. The images and ideas in movies are absorbed without difficulties into the popular imagination. This effect can leave long-lasting impressions. Movies can inspire people to raise awareness of various issues such as mental illness but can lead to inaccurate assumptions and stigma. In this thesis, I write about the media and its portrayal mental illness and especially how mental illness can be cast in a negative light with little positive effects. I viewed films with depictions of mental illness and developed four categories for analysis: 1) ―The thin line between genius and insanity‖, 2) homicidal maniacs, 3) realistic but disturbing and 4) sympathetic but unrealistic. In addition, I included another category which contains mental illness in animated films. Media representations are often criticized for their unrealistic portrayal of psychiatric disorders, the negative stereotypical images they provide, and the myths they perpetuate about mental illness (Livingston 2004). The stigma that results prejudice fosters against people who are diagnosed with mental illness. The discontent brought in by the stigma has caused society to be prejudiced against people who are diagnosed with a mental illness. Other times, the portrayal is more positive. In this thesis, my goal is to focus on movie portrayals of characters intended to be with psychosis, to provide a more in-depth view about ways that the depictions are stigmatizing or positive and, in particular, to see how the movies reflect and reinforce social attitudes and stigma.

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Sociology Commons



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